Oh man! I could dedicate an entire blog to this topic following my experience with postnatal depression. Although it was 6 years ago for me and I didnt even realise I had it, I can still remember the depths of my darkness and guilt during this time. I went from the high of recently graduating, landing my first “real job” and having my 20’s all planned out to being single after the sudden ending of a 5 year relationship – with a baby bump!
Post Natal Depression is a prolonged depression, comprised of feelings of darkness, hopelessness and emotional imbalance. It is usually brought on by being overwhelmed, a lack of sleep, lack of assistance with your new baby, a traumatic pregnancy/ birth, financial stress, etc. Some physical symptoms include insomnia or constantly needing to sleep, nausea, headaches, restlessness, excessive increase or loss of appetite.
Once I had come to terms with my premature pregnancy, I was excited and loved the little being I hadn’t even met SO much. I had the perfect, dreamy vision that I would absolutely love every minute of motherhood. I can clearly remember walking out of the hospital and wondering to myself “where is this baby going?“, little did I know that that was the beginning of a roller-coaster ride. Long story short, my depression got so bad that I decided to cut my maternity leave short by a month and return to work. I didn’t understand what I was going through. It sounds crazy, but that is what rescued me – it gave me clarity and got me out of the vicious cycle of replaying a million negative thoughts all day. It allowed to me get the right perspective on things and talk to other moms at the office.
In the African community, you are expected to take it as it comes. The saying goes “umfazi uyabekezela” – which means a woman must be patient and strong. Sitting around at home, as a young single mom with no help during the day, having very little money and no one to release this heavy load on was weighing down heavily on me. I felt like no one deserved to share in my misery because I got myself in that situation – I thought that it was my responsibility to “fix” myself, so I didn’t reach out to anyone to help me. I didn’t even recognize my symptoms.
Going back to work was what worked for me – it gave me some time away from baby to gather myself and generate more positive feelings about being a mother. I felt guilty about this decision, and I sometimes still do (I could have spent more time with my baby), but I needed to save myself for my sons sake. I thought that was the best thing I could have done for us at the time – I got my healing and I started enjoying all aspects of being a mother. I stopped feeling so isolated and I could be more present; I could love and miss him; I could provide for him; I could be the mother that my son needed. However, I realise now, that I could have explored some less-extreme options and dealt with it directly, through professional assistance.
Here are some ways you can get help:
- Talk to someone – your mother, your partner, your sibling, a friend, your Gynae. Don’t suffer with feelings of depression and anxiety alone. Get professional help as soon as possible so you can work through your feelings and set goals.
- Understand that it is a process that you wont just “snap out of”. Give yourself time and love.
- Manage your stress: spend some time doing the things that you enjoy – get a massage, go for a walk, a yoga class, sit in the garden or write in a journal. Set aside some time daily to do something for yourself.
- Eat healthy and get some exercises: eat food that gives you energy and promotes your health and well-being. Keep taking your prenatal vitamins. Inadequate minerals and vitamins can contribute to the depression.
- Contact the Post Natal Depression Support Association of South Africa for help and information on various support groups.
You do not have to suffer with the guilt and shame alone. 1 in 7 women experience Post Natal Depression and there is help available. You WILL heal.
Did you have Post Natal Depression? How did you deal with it?
Modern Zulu Mom